South of Marketor SOMA as it is well known for is a large sprawling district, spawning from the Embarcadero to Eleventh Street, between Market and Townsend. The neighborhood is a mixture of warehouses, nightspots, residential hotels, art spaces, loft apartments, furniture showrooms and Internet companies. Although a lot of building has gone on in recent years, it is still not densely developed. You can walk several desolate blocks before suddenly finding a hopping restaurant.
The SoMa District is large and spread out, the neighborhoods can appear shady, so if you do find yourself South of it, you best know where you're going. The vicinity around Sixth and Mission could leave you with an impression of nothing more than highway overpasses and warehouses. The area around the cultural Yerba Buena, South Park and Eleventh Street, comprises many hidden treasures and fun urban charm.
Most activity may be located in three general areas: by South Park and the Giants ballpark, around the SF MOMA and Yerba Buena gardens, and over by Folsom and Eleventh Street. SoMa, sounds like a SoHo wannabe. It does have a strong downtown vibe. However, the name has its roots in the old nickname "South of the Slot," referring to its position on the "wrong side" of the Market Street cable car track when it was an industrial district of factories and Gold Rush immigrant workers.
These days the industry most associated with South of Market has to do with the dot com boom. Once buzzing with purple-haired programmers and hobnobbing young executives, South Park is noticeably more subdued since the Internet companies started closing shop.The grassy square is a nice place to walk your dog or eat a meal, and it is bordered by several good shops and restaurants. In the summer the area gets more foot traffic as packs of Giants fans head to the games at the ballpark. New restaurants have opened to serve this crowd of sports fans.
The western end of the district is the most industrial, and is moslty huge wholesale marts and superstores like Costco, Bed, Bath & Beyond and others. SoMa has become more residential. The stretch along Eleventh and Folsom is the heart of the gay leather and S&M scene, which has its roots in the Folsom Street "Miracle Mile" of gay clubs and bathhouses in the '70s.
The area around Market and Third Street is influenced by the nearby Financial District and conventions at the Moscone Center. It has a bohemian undercurrent, with museums, and several independent bookstores.
Sights & Culture
Alice Street Community Gardens: Small and serene urban garden manicured by seniors and younger disabled people from the neighborhood. At the intersection of Bonifacio and Lapu Lapu (in the blocks bordered by Fourth and Third, Folsom and Harrison).
California Historical Society: The organization's museum showcases the history of the Golden State through photography, manuscripts, posters and artwork.The North Baker Research Library is open to the public, and so is the museum store. 678 Mission St., (415) 357-1848. (Web site)
Cartoon Art Museum: Charles Schulz financed this museum to officially open, bestowing his blessing on its mission to preserve and exhibit cartoon art "in all its forms." 655 Mission St., (415) 227-8666. (Web site)
Contemporary Jewish Museum: Engaging the public on Jewish culture, history, art, and ideas. Half off admission Thursdays after 5 pm; closed Wednesdays. 736 Mission St., (415) 655-7800. (Web site)
Folsom Street Fair: The annual finale of Leather Pride Week, The Folsom Street Fair, features an abundance of leather and fetish culture, equipment vendors, demonstrations of safe BDSM techniques and kinky souls trotting around in studded leather harnesses. The last Sunday in September on Folsom St., between Seventh and Twelfth Sts. (Web site)
Museum of the African Diaspora: A decade in the works, MoAD explores the culture, history and contributions of people of African ancestry around the world. 685 Mission St. (at Third Street), (415) 358-7200. (Web site)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: A modern art collection that boasts excellent touring exhibits, films and photography. The permanent collection includes works by Pollack, Warhol, Matisse, Picasso and O'Keeffe, as well as artists with a connection to the Bay Area, such as Diebenkorn and Thiebaud. Half-price on Thursday nights, from 6 to 9 pm; the first Tuesday of every month is free. 151 3rd St., (415) 357-4000. (Web site)
AT&T Park: The stadium boasts a waterfront promenade, an elaborate playground for kids, a free viewing area and, the thrill of the game. 24 Willie Mays Plaza, (415) 972-2000. (Web site)
Yerba Buena Gardens: A cultural focal point for the South of Market area with two blocks of museums, activities and peaceful gardens. The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, located at Third and Mission, hosts visual art exhibits, performances, and other events. (www.yerbabuenaarts.org / www.zeum.org / www.skatebowl.com)
Asia SF: Pan-Asian-Californian fare with tall, glamorous gender illusionists who serve it. Elegant surroundings provide the perfect backdrop for the sexy and campy waiters. 201 9th St. (at Howard Street), (415) 255-2742 ( Web site)
Beard Papa's: Baked pastry dough is heavy in the air. Employees pump light, creamy vanilla filling into crisp golden shells, while customers hover at the counter watching the action.99 Yerba Buena Lane (between Third and Fourth Streets on Mission),(415) 978-9972. (Web site)
Brain Wash Cafe & Laundromat: Live music while you wash away your dirty clothes and cares with coffee. 1122 Folsom (415) 861-3663. (Web site)
The Butler & the Chef: Parisian cafe with good coffee, bistro classics and crisp, buttery croissants. 155 South Park Ave. (415) 896-2075. (Web site)
Caffe Roma: Family-style, fresh daily menu of home-made Italian soups, salads, panini and desserts features artisan bread brought in daily from Panorama Bakery on Florida Street, prosciutto from Ital Foods in South San Francisco, balsamic vinegar from Modena, and even olive oil (available for sale) imported from Puglia, Italy. 885 Bryant St., (415) 296-7662. Closed weekends. ( Web site)
Canton: May be the best dim sum in the city. Also great chicken thighs, dumplings and bok choy in oyster sauce. 655 Folsom St. (near Third St.), (415) 495-3064. (Web site)
Caffe Centro: A breezy cafe using mostly local, organic ingredients 102 South Park Ave. (415) 882-1500. (Web site)
Goat Hill Pizza: A Potrero Hill favorite offering traditionally Monday-only all-you-can-eat pizza night every day.715 Harrison (at Third Street), (415) 974-1303. (Web site)
Henry's Hunan Restaurant: Spicy generous portions at this comfortable, friendly venue. 110 Natoma St. (at Second Street); (415) 456-4999. Open 11:30-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Also at 674 Sacramento St., 924 Sansome St. and 1016 Bryant St. (Web site)
Koh Samui and the Monkey: Thai menu featureswell-executed classics such as green papaya salad, spring rolls with shrimp, mint and noodles and tom ka gai, plus unique items like crushed scallops mounded with sesame seeds and pumpkin curry with red chiles, galangal, kaffir lime and basil in coconut milk. 415 Brannan St. (near Third), (415) 369-0007.(Web site)
Organic Coffee Company Cafe: Java joint located on San Francisco City College's downtown campus 88 Fourth St., (415) 512-7436. (Web site)
Primo Patio Cafe: Serving "global tropical" (Mediterranean and Caribbean) cuisine for nearly a decade 214 Townsend St. (near Third Street), (415) 957-1129. (Web site)
South Park Cafe: French-bistro items and simple breakfasts. 108 South Park Ave., (415) 495-7275.(Web site)
Sushi Groove South: Good nigiri, sake cocktails and unexpected items such as sushi pizza,A DJ is on hand most evenings to set the vibe. 1516 Folsom St., (415) 503-1950.
Triptych: This cafe/gallery features a mosaic bar and tables, a 30-seat outdoor garden patio, and a chef from Gordon Biersch in San Jose. 1155 Folsom St. (Web site)
V Cafe: The best cheese steak sandwiches in town. V's version of the classic cheese steak is made with grilled onions, sweet or hot cherry peppers and your choice of American, provolone, Swiss, cheddar or jack. 1525 Folsom St., near 11th; (415) 863-3620. Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday. Delivery and catering services available.
21st Amendment: This brewery seeks to bring the "local" back to the beer culture of the Bay Area. 563 2nd St., (415) 369-0900.(Web site)
Gordon Biersch: An after-work bar and is a great place to hang out, with two levels for roaming around and at least four house brews (in addition to a full bar) to sample. 2 Harrison St. (at Embarcadero), (415) 243-8246. (Web site)
Thirsty Bear: more than 30 varietie of tapas to choose from with high quality entrees and desserts. (415) 974-0905. ( Web site)
440 Brannan: An edgy clothing boutique with well-cut, affordable pieces with an urban look. 440 Brannan, (415) 957-1411. (Web site)
Adolph Gasser: A one-stop nirvana for photo geeks. 181 Second St., (415) 495-3852. (Web site)
Alexander Book Co.: The independent bookstore offers three floors of smartly chosen titles. Focuses include children's books, African-American topics and graphic design. 50 Second St., (415) 495-2992. (Web site)
Ann Sacks Tile & Stone: Features handmade tiles from around the world.. 2 Henry Adams, Suite 125 (at Division Street), (415) 252-5889. (Web site)
Dandelion: An eccelctic collection of housewares, food, books, and other trinket. 55 Potrero Ave, (415) 436-9500. (Web site)
General Bead: Any and every kind of bead you could ever imagine. 637 Minna, between Seventh and Eighth Sts, (415) 255-2323. (Web site)
Jeremy's: Jeremy's is purveyor of marked-down designer clothing. 2 South Park, (415) 882-4929. (Web site)
Stormy Leather: A great place to shop for the Folsom Street Fair, year-round. Men's and women's leather jackets, chaps, vests, corsets and harnesses. 1158 Howard St., (415) 626-1672. (Web site)
111 Minna: A bar, nightclub and art gallery in one, that attracts a lively hipster crowd. Wednesday's four-DJ happy hour, from 5-10 p.m. 111 Minna (415) 974-1719. (Web site)
330 Ritch: Best known for its nighttime program of live music, swing lessons and dancing, 330 Ritch offers a casual lunch and dinner menu, with burgers, bar snacks and creative sandwiches, 330 Ritch (415) 541-9574.
Anu: Anu is an Irish Pub that doesn't have the feel of an Irish pub. Perhaps it's the bar's unconventional cocktails with fine guest DJs, and a high-tech Internet jukebox that accepts credit cards. 43 Sixth St., (415) 543-3622
Hotel Utah Saloon: A full bar runs the length of Hotel Utah's narrow front room. Always interesting performance artists on calender with tables and a tiny but comfortable stage,with a balcony overlooking. 500 Fourth St., (415) 421-8308.
Kate O'Brien's: A rollicking Irish pub with Guinness, Harp, fish and chips, and pizza thrown in for good measure. 579 Howard St. (415) 882-7240. (Web site)
Slim's: Slim's showcases touring bands from around the world. 333 11th St., (415) 255-0333. Web site)